Osteopathy was ‘discovered’ by the American Physician Andrew Taylor Still in Missouri in the 1800s. On the frontier, medicine during Still’s time was quite different. Antibiotics had yet to be discovered and common treatments included alcohol, opioids and amputation. After losing his father, wife and three children to meningitis within a short period of time, Still was forced to question how effective his tools for healing were. After much meditation and deliberation, he began to reason there must be an alternative to what he had been taught.
In Dr. Still’s view, the body was not created without rhyme or reason. Rather, its circulatory, nervous and other systems of the body were in place for a purpose: to furnish the body with nutrition and to help it auto-regulate and heal itself.
As the son of a preacher, Dr. Still grew up listening to sermons and spent a large amount of time with the First Nation in his area, the Shawnee. Sources point out that Dr. Still was influenced by his environment in his quest to understand healing. His writings reflect the worldview of the Shawnee in expressing a reverence for nature and emphasizing the interconnectedness of peoples’ physical spiritual and mental aspects.
Osteopathy developed as a practice in the United States under Dr. Still’s tutelage and spread overseas via prominent Osteopaths such as John Martin Littlejohn, Anne Wales, Thomas Schooley, and William Garner Sutherland. This led to the emergence of two streams of Osteopathic education that continue to exist throughout the world today and are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Type I training programs are aimed at people with little previous training in healthcare. They typically involve four years/4200 hours of full time study, with at least 1000 hours of supervised clinical practice and training. Type II programs are for people with previous healthcare and training and are presented in a part time format that ensures graduates demonstrate the same competencies as those who undergo Type I training.
Osteopathic Physicians trained in the United States can practice as licensed Physicians in Canada if they are a member of their respective provincial medical college. They are granted prescribing rights and can work within the medical specialty of their choosing. Osteopathic practitioners trained in Canada are not licensed physicians and the scope of their practice does not include prescribing pharmaceuticals.
As of now, Osteopathy is not regulated in Canada. Because of this, there is a wide discrepancy in available Osteopathic training programs and a lack of practice consistency among persons claiming to be Osteopathic practitioners.
An association has been set up in most provinces to ensure that Osteopathic practitioners have obtained the proper education. Only those with education meeting the benchmarks laid out by the WHO are able to become a member of these associations. In British Columbia, this association is Osteopathy BC.
*Please be aware that in some provinces, schools that offer sub-par Osteopathic education have set up their own associations in order to appear legitimate to the public.